Hiroshima and the nearby island of Miyajima were near the end of our Japan itinerary. Actually, we’d almost canceled this part of the trip to spend more time on the main island of Honshu, but we’re so glad we didn’t; this ended up being an incredibly awesome part of our time in Japan.
The first thing you think of when you hear the word “Hiroshima” probably has to do with the Atom Bomb, as it was for me before our trip. After visiting, the first memory that comes to mind now is the warm vibe of the people, a visual of having fun talking with strangers, and the ferry ride to Miyajima. Certainly, visiting the Bomb Dome and Peace Museum brought history to life for me in a way that I’m not sure I’ve experienced before. What also stays in mind is the easy welcome we experienced by the people in bars, restaurants and shops. We had some of our best people interactions in Hiroshima, and our first evening dinner at a yakitori bar during happy hour brought engaging conversations with young Japanese professionals, and a goofy old bartender who said several times, with corresponding hand gestures: “USA number 1. China, number 2. Japan, number 3.” We were not sure what exact criteria he was referencing, but it made for an amusing few hours.
Miyajima, along with Takayama, rate as our agreed upon favorite places in Japan so far, which is tough because we really loved every spot we visited. Miyajima was accessed from Hiroshima first by 30 minute train ride, then a ten minute ferry to the island. The island itself is in the Japanese Inland Sea, which is protected from the north Pacific Ocean by surrounding land masses. The mainland and islands here are mountainous and covered with deciduous forest as well as evergreens, and you’ll see in the photos that the scenery is absolutely stunning, evoking images of the South Pacific.
Highlights on beautiful Miyajima included hiking, oyster stands selling giant fresh oysters prepared all sorts of ways (all yummy!) and the beautiful shrines, especially the trademark seaside red shrine, named Itsukushima for the traditional name of this island. We hiked miles and miles around the island, getting lost a few times, but comfortably, since you can only get so “lost” on an island before stumbling onto an oyster stand or another beautiful shrine. It was rather touristy as you might expect, but we did not mind. There were also many friendly deer like those at Nara, and we gave one a bit of ice cream, earning it’s dog-like loyalty, as it walked between us for another ten minutes before transferring to a small kid who was trailing fallen rice cracker snacks.
We actually spent both of our sightseeing days in Hiroshima on Miyajima instead of the city of Hiroshima, choosing to bypass the art museums. We liked it that much. If we return to Japan, we’d both like to stay a few days on Miyajima when it is warmer. The beaches were beautiful, but it was cool and the water itself was freezing, with an ocean ecosystem similar to that of northern California.
Last stop, Osaka.